Karachi, 26th November, 2016
I don’t remember the first time I tasted chocolate. I don’t remember the first time I saw the sunrise and the colours in the sky blew me away. I don’t remember the first time I felt excited about seeing a new city, or when that excitement became my foremost desire. I don’t remember the first time I recognised how much I love my family, or the first time the waves washed over my feet at the beach. These are extraordinary emotions; those that are constant through my life. Exhilarating, yet impossible to verbalise.
It was similar for me, with Fidel. I use his first name because he has been more a friend, a companion to me over the years, than a distant figure. I’ve carefully studied his life and his struggle, I’ve lived and relived it on pages of books, old and new; on television screens, and in conversations with hardliner communists or those disillusioned by the same; I have breathed in his valiance on the streets of Havana and absorbed his undeniable presence in the tiny lanes of Soroa. I’ve cried and mourned for the loss of his fallen comrades as though they were my own. Why not? It’s never too dramatic to cry when the world loses good people; people with strength of character, moral fibre, people who stand for what they believe in despite the consequences instead of losing themselves in the riptide; exactly the kind of people the world is desperately lacking today.
In all this, I don’t remember when I began to love Fidel. Be it as a figment of my imagination, or my friend who lived in the pages of those books, or an ideal, someone who stood up to bullies and put his money where his mouth is.
As much as I feel the need to defend my friend, I will not comment on his politics because for me, this grief is not political, it is personal.
Today, I mourn you Fidel, from the depth of my heart and soul. I don’t remember when you became my friend, but I will never forget your loss and what a void it has left in me, or in the world.
In a global atmosphere where racism and bigotry are the order of the day, I will remember your regard and struggle for equality and brotherhood; where the poor struggle to afford medicines for their families, I will remember your service of free health care for your people, and the doctors you sent world over in times of need; where only those who have means can afford quality education, I will remember your effort for free top quality education for your people; where a switch to renewable energy is desperately needed but not implemented, I will remember how you survived Peak Oil; where natural disasters are frequent, I will remember your efforts to safeguard the Cuban people through foolproof evacuation plans and early warning systems; where the chemicals that fertilise our food are killing us, I will remember how you encouraged Cubans to grow their own; and finally, when we sit in our living rooms and talk about changing the world, I will remember how you went out there and did exactly that.
In a world where the options are either Trump or Hilary; where after colonising the world Britain wants to become isolationist; where opportunities are based on where and to whom you were born, and in a world where money, not work, is what gets you ahead, I will remember you, my dear friend.
It is not history, but our present that has absolved you.
Rest in Peace, Fidel Castro.
Hasta la Victoria siempre!
Fuerza y adelante!